A penguin from St Kilda’s famous colony has been left for dead in an attack by a group of men early on Friday morning.
A graphic image has surfaced of the bloodied penguin with injuries to its chest and face, discovered by a volunteer, about 1.30am on Good Friday.
The little penguin was inside a fence meant to protect the colony near St Kilda Pier, but the barrier has done little to protect the penguins from two separate brutal attacks in recent weeks by a gang of violent men.
Volunteer Ivan Leong said he caught a group of about five young men menacing the colony early on Friday morning and asked them to leave, The Age reported.
"They were drunk and started climbing all over the rocks, harassing the penguins, chasing them and grabbing them. I screamed at them to stop it."
The Earthcare volunteer said tourists alerted him to a bleeding penguin about 20 minutes later, which he found with a deep cut under its right eye.
Blood was also found on the penguin's mate.
Due to the late hour, Mr Leong said he was unable to help the penguins as he did not have authority to remove the birds.
“All I could do was take photos," he said, which was uploaded to Earthcare St Kilda's Facebook page later on Friday.
Mr Leong returned later Friday morning with other volunteers to search for the hurt bird, but after five hours the group found nothing.
"We've scoured the area where I last saw the penguin but have had no luck," he said.
"I'm feeling quite horrible at the moment, I'm hoping that it has survived but it will have a nasty scar at the very least."
“Words cannot describe the horror of this,” Earthcare wrote in a caption accompanying the image.
“Those who delivered the attack are very sick, gutless, criminals who should not be at liberty in our community,” the post read.
This incident follows an attack a fortnight ago when German tourists saw a young man with dyed pink hair kicking a penguin repeatedly inside the fence at the St Kilda colony, encouraged by a “large group” of men.
The bird’s dead body was later found and reported to police.
Mr Leong said the pink-haired man had been seen annoying the penguins on other occasions.
The colony made headlines 12 months ago for being under threat from snap-happy tourists using selfie sticks upsetting the penguins with close-up flash photography.
A colony of about 1000 little blue penguins, also known as fairy penguins, live around St Kilda Pier.